BBC boss defends coverage of Cliff Richard raid, but apologises for stress caused

BBC boss defends coverage of Cliff Richard raid, but apologises for stress caused
BBC director general Lord Tony Hall

BBC director-general Lord Hall has defended the corporation's live coverage of a police raid at Cliff Richard's home, but expressed regret at the distress caused to the singer.

Speaking to reporters at the launch of the BBC's annual report, Lord Hall added that the BBC would "respond in due course" to a letter received from Sir Cliff's team.

Sir Cliff confirmed at the weekend that he planned to sue the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over live coverage of the raid at his home in August 2014.

Officers investigating allegations of historical sex offences were filmed searching Sir Cliff's apartment in Berkshire, leading to him being publicly named as part of the probe. The 75-year-old was never arrested or charged.

Lord Hall said: "Well, we've said two things publicly. On one hand, we've said Sir Cliff - who is a fabulous entertainer and has done great things for the BBC over very many years - we've said we're sorry for the stress he's been caused over the last couple of years.

"We've also said that the Home Affairs Select Committee reviewed - they had myself, James (Purnell) and others in front of them including South Yorkshire Police (SYP) - they reviewed our decisions and said we see nothing wrong in the BBC decision to run the story, and I think that's right.

"If the police are investigating a matter which is of public interest and concern then we should report that. And by the way, it's not just us, it's all our colleagues in broadcast media and newspapers as well. That's all I really want to say, yes, we have received a letter ... and we will respond to that in due course."

When asked if there would be an apology to Sir Cliff, he said: "I've said what I said."

In June, the Crown Prosecution Service dismissed the case on grounds of insufficient evidence.

Both the BBC and South Yorkshire Police have apologised to the singer, with the BBC saying it was sorry Sir Cliff had "suffered distress".

BBC boss defends coverage of Cliff Richard raid, but apologises for stress caused

The BBC boss admitted post-Brexit political turmoil could have an impact on negotiations in the run-up to the new royal charter.

He told reporters: "I won't say anything about the timetable because what I think we have all learnt over the last two-and-a-half weeks is, you start the day thinking one thing and then by lunchtime the world looks completely different."

The current 10-year royal charter will expire on December 31. The Government set out its plans for the new 11-year charter in a White Paper in May.

He said he felt a "huge amount of progress" had been made on the new charter.

"We have had good, hard, tough, difficult negotiations, but we've got to a place which I think is right and I think the Government thinks is right as a whole," he commented.

Asked about the appointment of a new prime minister to replace David Cameron, he said: "I have no reason to think Theresa May won't think it's right."

A key theme of the new charter has been "distinctiveness", which Lord Hall said the BBC had demonstrated over the past year.

Distinctiveness was central to the 2015 Green Paper on the future of the BBC, as well as the White Paper in May.

BBC Trust chairwoman Rona Fairhead said the corporation was "actually on the right trajectory for distinctiveness".

She added: "What we have seen is a relentless drive from the trust supporting the director-general, who has been very clear that creativity and distinctiveness is at the heart of the BBC."

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